Diversity at PennDesign

PennDesign's Commitment to Diversity

PennDesign is committed to creating an educational setting in which all students, faculty members, and staff members are valued.

We strive to create an inclusive culture that celebrates difference and is strengthened by contributions from people of all races, religions, countries of origin, genders, ages, sexual orientations, physical abilities, learning differences, and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

We aspire to support and retain a student body, faculty and staff who are representative of the multiple communities and publics with which we collaborate and work. 

A diverse community at PennDesign enhances our ability to prepare the next generation of artists, architects, landscape architects, planners, and preservationists to become leaders and innovators in a multicultural society.

Diversity Committee

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.” –President Barack Obama

Shortly after his appointment in the summer of 2016, Dean Steiner formed a Faculty Diversity Work Group (DWG) to advise him on strategies to (1) increase the diversity of the School’s faculty, staff, and student body; (2) promote a more inclusive community; (3) and foster a learning environment that encourages and celebrates difference. The DWG invited staff and student representatives to join the group and met monthly throughout the 2016-17 academic year. Chaired by Sharon Hayes, Associate Professor of Fine Arts, the Work Group includes faculty members from across the School, staff members, as well as student representatives from DiverseDesign and PennDesign Student Council. The DWG served as a productive forum for conversations. This group led a Diversity town hall for students in the spring and coordinated a school-wide, engaging faculty discussion on inclusive teaching practices for our studio and classroom environments. In June 2017, the DWG presented the Dean with a detailed report on recommendations for continuing these efforts.

In September 2017 the Dean convened a more formal Diversity Committee with faculty, staff, and student representation to carry forth recommendations into expanded implementation. Some initiatives for the 2017-2018 academic year include: a school-wide faculty discussion regarding resources for diversity within course content, a student diversity town hall, an event for students highlighting studio and elective offerings addressing specific topics of diversity, and focused training in regards to developing a diverse pool of candidates for faculty positions. In addition, efforts are underway to promote the range of speakers and critics that are being invited to campus. In October 2017, Associate Director for Faculty Affairs, Karyn Tufarolo, was named the PennDesign Diversity Coordinator. In this newly created role, Karyn will help implement the recommendations of the school’s Diversity Committee, organize diversity-oriented events, coordinate trainings and discussions on diversity-related issues, update the diversity section of the school’s website, and track and report PennDesign’s progress toward goals outlined in the school’s Faculty Diversity Plan.



Diverse Design is a student group dedicated to enriching the diversity of perspectives of potential and practicing designers here at Penn and outside our internal community. We seek to engage Penn Design, Penn’s Campus and the greater Philadelphia Community to encourage new perspectives to grow within the field to combat the inequalities that still exist within our profession and consequently the built environments around the world.


QueerDesign is a student-run group at PennDesign, created to build a community of LGBTQ+ designers to support a space of exchange and judgment free collaboration. Aiming to foster discussions about the meaning of diversity and its intersection with design at Penn and beyond, QueerDesign hopes to connect to existing networks of students and professionals. In addition, the organization explores a number of facets of queer culture and history, specifically within the realm of design. At Penn, QueerDesign partners with other groups on campus to curate a variety of social, educational, and professional events.


Women in Architecture

Since the fall of 2016, PennDesign's Women in Architecture group has been actively examining this historically male dominated profession while providing networking and mentorship opportunities to members. The goal is to mobilize a community of designers and thinkers with the purpose of increasing the incidence and visibility of women in architecture. Their hope is to bring awareness to the gender disparity that exists in the profession and empower each other by fostering growth, promoting success, and above all, cultivating the next generation of female leaders in the profession.

Women in Architecture hosted their first symposium on Women in Architecture, [RE]FORM: The Framework, Fallout & Future of Women in Design, in spring of 2017, as well as several other networking and social events. In the current academic year, this group is offering mentoring opportunities, firm tours, construction site visits, speed networking events, and more.



Dean Steiner sent the following message to the PennDesign community on Monday, March 20, 2017.

Dear PennDesign Community,

Immigration policy affects all of us, and because the stakes are so high, many of us have felt compelled to affirm our commitment to diversity and inclusion publicly. One forum for doing this is the grassroots social media campaign #YouAreWelcomeHere. The campaign has been championed by schools and other organizations across the country as both a pledge to international students considering study in the U.S. and an affirmation of current students’ invaluable contribution to our communities.

I invite you to add your voice to the campaign and send a message of inclusion. PennDesign’s communications staff are distributing #YouAreWelcomeHere signs throughout Meyerson, Morgan, and Addams over the coming days for everyone’s use. PennDesign will also have signs and a photographer at Happy Hour on Friday, March 24, and the Faculty Meeting on Wednesday, April 19. As President Gutmann wrote last month, “It has never been more vital for us to come together, as one community, to find strength in our diversity.”

Fritz Steiner

Diversity Events

Below are some of the PennDesign events which promote discussions relating to equality and diversity in many forms within our disciplines.

Additions to this list should be sent to the PennDesign Diversity Coordinator at tufarolo@design.upenn.edu.

Spring 2018

Manuel Pastor: Conversation with Dean Frederick Steiner on Social and Environmental Justice
(Jan 22)
The Department of City and Regional Planning welcomes Manuel Pastor, Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity, University of South California, for a conversation with Dean and Paley Professor Frederick Steiner.

Sierra Bainbridge, MASS Design Group Work and Ideas (Jan 30)
PennPraxis hosts Sierra Bainbridge, principal at MASS Group, with a presentation of WORK AND IDEAS. MASS Group is an international leader in the practice of social impact architecture and landscape architecture for community development and health. MASS has earned the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award (2017) and many other accolades, and created a diverse and pioneering body of work for contexts and peoples that don’t usually get the benefit of design.

Francine Houben: People, Place, Purpose (Feb 5)
Francine Houben is the founder / CEO of Mecanoo architecten. Her work ranges from theatres, museums, and libraries to neighborhoods, housing, and parks. As curator of the First International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam in 2003, she brought the theme of the aesthetics of mobility to the forefront of international design consciousness. She holds Honorary Doctorates from Utrecht University and Université de Mons. Francine has gained international acclaim for her works. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands presented her the prestigious Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds for her entire oeuvre in 2015.

PennDesign Student Town Hall on Diversity (Feb 23)
The Diversity Committee presents an opportunity for students to meet for lunch and share thoughts and concerns with faculty and staff in an informal forum on Friday February 23 at 12 noon in the Upper Gallery. This is an open & casual pizza lunch providing an opportunity for any PennDesign student to talk about their experiences and provide input on ways to make progress towards a more inclusive community that celebrates equality and multiple voices. We ask students to RSVP to tufarolo@design.upenn.edu by Feb 20.

ICA Artist Talk: Cameron Rowland (Mar 1)
Philadelphia-born artist Cameron Rowland considers a multilayered genealogical investigation into slavery and its ties to economic development and mass incarceration in the United States. In this uniquely American direction in his work, he manifests the invisible economy that has exploited prison labor since the 1865 passage of 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery but legalized involuntary servitude as criminal punishment. Rowland describes how the origins of present-day inmate labor are entangled with efforts to effectively re-enslave African-Americans. Learn more about his process and explorations.

Edwin Melendez Talk: Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria (Mar 12)
The Department of City and Regional Planning presents Edwin Meléndez, Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College. He was appointed as the Director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies in 2008. An economist by training, he has conducted considerable research in the areas of Puerto Rican and Latino studies, economic development, labor markets, and poverty. Professor Melendez has an extensive record of community and public service, including numerous appointments to government and community boards, and has worked as a consultant to numerous government, community, and philanthropic foundations. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Education, 2011, from the New York League of Puerto Rican Women, the 2010 Educational Leadership Honoree award from the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, New York, and El Diario El Awards 2009, New York.​

[RE]ACTION: Empowering the Future Leaders in Design (Mar 20)
Presented by PennDesign Women in Architecture (PIWA)
[RE]Action is a full day of workshops empowering the future leaders in design. Organized by PennDesign Women in Architecture (PWIA), this event presents opportunities for attendees to acquire a toolset to take charge of their careers and set themselves up for success. Workshop topics will include Negotiation, Networking, Knowing Your Rights, Navigating Construction Sites, and Assertive Communication. PWIA is committed to equity in design and welcomes all to join the conversation.

Tue March 27 at 6 pm in Upper Gallery
This event will feature both fall elective options and student groups focusing on diversity, social impact, and interdisciplinary study.  Faculty members and students will present interdisciplinary elective highlights in a very short engaging way, student groups will showcase diverse activities, and we will have information available at a brief reception to discuss resources and opportunities.  Presented by the Diversity Committee, with snacks provided.

Conversation about welcoming LGBQT students into our community 
Tues April 3, 12 – 1:30 pm, in Upper Gallery
Talk with students, faculty, and staff
This discussion/workshop will be led by Davy Knittles from the Center for Teaching and Learning, along with PennDesign faculty, student & staff representatives, to better consider and support LGBQT concerns and gender inclusivity within our educational community. Learn about ways to recognize members of our community and understand their experiences in the classroom setting.  Lunch provided.
RSVP to tufarolo@design.upenn.edu.

Symposium: Structural Instability (Apr 5 + 6)
Structural Instability: History, Environment, and Risk in Architecture
This symposium will explore how the structural instabilities of the 21st century are legible in histories of architecture and related spatio-political disciplines, insofar as they engage questions of economy, gender, race, and environmental change.

Faculty Chat regarding Diversifying Course Content
Thursday April 5 at 12 noon 
For faculty members who asked for a more informal opportunity to continue discussions and make connections about re-thinking diversity within their own courses, Professor Lisa Servon will facilitate a casual faculty talk to share ideas & resources and identify ways to support one another in these efforts. Please continue the discussions from faculty meetings across departments into your content areas.  Faculty should RSVP to tufarolo@design.upenn.edu as space will be limited.

Mario Romañach and Latin America Modernism (April 16)
The Office of the Dean hosts a panel discussion on Mario Romañach (1917-1984), influential PennDesign architecture professor, and how he fits into Latin American modernism.

Fall 2017

Domenic Vitiello: The Sanctuary City (Sept 7)
Domenic Vitiello, Associate Professor of City & Regional Planning, discusses the sanctuary movements of the 1980s and today at the Barnes Foundation.

'A Worker’s Lunch Box’ Film Screening and Panel Discussion (Sept 13)
A Worker's Lunch Box is a research project and film installation exploring the role of the urban factory worker and the production of things. The installation is part of an on-going project by curator and urbanist Nina Rappaport, author of Vertical Urban Factory (Actar 2016).  According to the Slought website: “This provides an indelible backdrop for understanding the significance of factory life and factory workers during a period of manufacturing decline, while also showing a potential for its increase. The installation features a series of 18 filmed interviews with factory workers exploring the importance of work, the worker's role in the factory, the value of work to the worker, and the meaning of urban production. By focusing attention on the individual factory employee, these personal narratives demonstrate firsthand the importance of urban production spaces and their social significance.”

Design Manifestos! What does community engaged design mean to you? (Sept 14)
Presented by PennPraxis, this interactive discussion is led by fellow PennDesign students sharing experiences and aspirations for creating the next generation of community engaged designers. Hear from current students and alumni who have experience doing community engaged design work and engage in discussions on topics including: Power + Privilege + Positionality, Radical Inclusion, and Designing for Justice.

Monument Lab: Monumental Project Rethinks Public Art in Philadelphia (Sept 16 - Nov 19)
September 16 – November 19 – ongoing public art exhibition, with multiple public events
Co-curated by Fine Arts Professor Ken Lum, Monument Lab is a public art and history project produced with Mural Arts Philadelphia. Monument Lab invites visitors to join a citywide conversation about history, memory, and our collective future. Monument Lab operates around a central guiding question: What is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia? This line of inquiry is aimed at building civic dialogue and stoking historical imagination as forces for social change.

Philadelphia is a city full of monuments and memorials. Philadelphia is also a city full of monumental histories, many of which are little known, obscured, or simply unacknowledged. These underrepresented histories often exist in tension with officially acknowledged narratives. The projects that make up Monument Lab address issues of social justice and solidarity, including matters of race, gender, sexuality, class, and national belonging. Drawing on meaningful modes of social engagement through creative response, the project is an invitation to not only answer a shared question but to explore, excavate, and reflect multiple forms of historical knowledge. Rather than asking for only the feasible or practical, Monument Lab seeks ideas that speak to the evolving core values and visions of the city.

Main Streets Now: Preservation-Based Community Revitalization in the New Economy (Sept 19)
The Graduate Program in Historic Preservation is pleased to welcome Patrice Frey, President and CEO of National Main Street Center, Inc.  Patrice Frey is President and CEO of the National Main Street Center, where she oversees the Center’s work, offering technical assistance, research, advocacy, and education and training opportunities for Main Street’s network of approximately 1,100 communities. Based in Chicago, Illinois, the National Main Street Center is a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and has participated in the renewal of more than 2,000 older commercial districts during its 30-year history.

A Conversation with Mindy Fullilove (Oct 11)
Mindy is a board-certified psychiatrist who explores the ties between environment and mental health. Dedicated to the psychology of place, Mindy’s research started in 1986 when she linked the AIDS epidemic with place of residence and she continues to focus on the health problems caused by inequality.  For the past 30 years, Mindy has been investigating how broken connections between different sections of cities harm public health and explores ways to reconnect them. She has published numerous articles and six books including "Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America's Sorted-Out Cities," "Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It," and "House of Joshua: Meditations on Family and Place."

Admissions Event: NOMA Graduate School Fair Houston, TX (Oct 13)
PennDesign will be represented at the Graduate School Fair at the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) annual international conference and exposition.

Between Rural and Urban Communities: New Models for Community-Engaged Design, Art, and Economic Development in Rural New York State (Oct 16)
This is PennPraxis’ first in a series of dialogues between rural and urban communities. The projects and ideas of this panel intersect strongly with the work of the five departments at PennDesign—Fine Arts, Landscape Architecture, Historic Preservation, City & Regional Planning, and Architecture—to promote interdisciplinary conversation and input for the panelists. Over the last year, we have become increasingly aware of the lack of dialogue and understanding between city people and rural people in the United States and well beyond, and what this means for our politics, natural resources, climate and culture. Jeff Barnett-Winsby and Bowie Zunino, artists and founders of the Wassaic Project, and Scott Anderson, entrepreneur and strategist in Wassaic Community Development Partners, will share their 11 years of art, invention, community-building, saving heritage structures, chairing the local zoning board, and running both the local fire department and the community bar and restaurant.

Sharon Sutton: When Ivory Towers Were Black (Lessons in Re-Imagining Universities and Communities) (Nov 2)
Dr. Sharon Egretta Sutton, FAIA is an activist educator and scholar who promotes inclusivity in the cultural makeup of the city-making professions and in the populations they serve, and also advocates the use of participatory planning and design strategies in low-income and minority communities. Sutton discusses her most recent book, When Ivory Towers were Black: A Story about Race in America's Cities and Universities.  She shares how she and an unparalleled cohort of ethnic minority students got free Ivy League educations during the late 1960s and early1970s, when the Black Power Movement was at its zenith. Sutton felt compelled to write the book by the persistent whiteness of schools in today’s universities, especially in fields like architecture and planning. In her lecture, Dr. Sutton describes the institutional context of this student-led transformation and tells how it quickly unraveled as white lash against black progress grew, just as is occurring today.  After revealing both the immediate and long-term outcomes of what she refers to as Columbia’s “arc of insurgency,” Sutton ends by issuing a call to PennDesign students to re-imagine a learning environment that would attract and support a diverse student body at their own institution.

Admissions Event: California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education Camarillo, CA (Nov 4)
PennDesign is delighted to attend the recruitment fair at the California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education.  This consortium of public and private colleges and universities from throughout California, is designed particularly to meet the needs of advanced undergraduates and master's candidates who belong to groups that are currently underrepresented in doctoral-level programs.

Spring Preview: Electives + Student Groups (Nov 7)
Focus on Diversity, Social Impact, + Interdisciplinary Options

Presented by the Diversity Committee, the PennDesign Spring Preview on Tuesday, November 7, 5:30 – 7:00, in the Meyerson Upper Gallery, features both spring elective options and student groups focusing on diversity, social impact, and interdisciplinary study.  Faculty members present interdisciplinary elective highlights in engaging ways, student groups showcase diverse activities, followed by a brief reception to discuss resources and opportunities for all PennDesign students.

City Planning Poetics 4: Urban Memory (Nov 13)
At Kelly Writers House
Simone White with Randall Mason, Associate Professor and Chair, Historic Preservation

The Kelly Writers House’s City Planning Poetics series, hosted by Davy Knittle, brings together in conversation a poet and someone involved in urban studies/city planning to tease out the relationship between these two fields. This conversation will focus on the issue of urban memory, the collective memory created by individuals and institutions in the city itself and its social environment

Simone White is the author of Dear Angel of Death (coming later this year from Ugly Duckling Presse), Of Being Dispersed, and House of Envy of All the World, the poetry chapbook, Unrest, and the collaborative poem/painting chapbook, Dolly, with Kim Thomas. Her poetry and prose have been featured in NYTimes Book Review, Harper's Magazine, BOMB Magazine, Chicago Review, and Harriet: The Blog. She has been the recipient of the 2017 Whiting Award, Cave Canem Foundation fellowships, and recognition as a New American Poet for the Poetry Society of America, in 2013. She works as Program Director at The Poetry Project and teaches writing and American literature at Thew New School, Eugene Lang College. Randall Mason is Associate Professor of City & Regional Planning and Chair of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation. His published work includes: The Once and Future New York, on the origins of historic preservation in New York City (University of Minnesota Press, 2009, winner of the Society of Architectural Historians' Antoinette Forester Downing Award), and North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City (with photographer Christopher Payne, Fordham University Press, 2014). Mason's professional practice includes projects at many scales, addressing planning, preservation and public space issues, commissioned by organizations including the Brookings Institution, Getty Conservation Institute, William Penn Foundation, the City of Philadelphia, and the National Park Service.


AY 2017 Recommendation Report

Shortly after his appointment in the summer of 2016, Dean Steiner formed a Faculty Diversity Work Group (DWG) to advise him on strategies to (1) increase the diversity of the School’s faculty, staff, and student body; (2) promote a more inclusive community; (3) and foster a learning environment that encourages and celebrates difference. The DWG invited staff and student representatives to join the group and met monthly throughout the 2016-17 academic year. Chaired by Sharon Hayes, Associate Professor of Fine Arts, the Work Group included faculty members from across the School, staff members, as well as student representatives from DiverseDesign and PennDesign Student Council. The DWG served as a productive forum for conversations. This group led a Diversity town hall for students and coordinated a school-wide, engaging faculty discussion on inclusive teaching practices for our studio and classroom environments. In June 2017, the DWG presented the Dean with a detailed report on recommendations for continuing these efforts.